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College Hoops: Unbeaten & Winless Schools

   by Larry Ness - 01/31/2005

While U Conn claimed last year's national title, St Joseph's and Stanford made plenty of 'noise', as both schools flirted with college basketball's first unbeaten season since Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers finished 32-0 in 1975-76. Illinois (21-0) and Boston College (18-0) are the only remaining unbeaten teams entering February this year. Can either school make it through unscathed?

It's UNLIKELY but both have been great stories. After leading Illinois to its first outright Big-10 regular season title in 52 years last season, Bruce Webber has the Fightin' Illini playing even better in just his second year at Champagne-Urbana. Illinois is outscoring opponents by 18 PPG and owns impressive wins over Gonzaga 89-72, Wake 91-73 and at Wisconsin 75-65. The win at Madison ended the Badgers' 38-game home winning streak. Watch out though, Tuesday night the Illini visit East Lansing!

The BC Eagles are college basketball's biggest surprise. Picked to finish sixth in the Big East by college basketball's 'bible', the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, Al Skinner's team has opened with 18 consecutive wins, one shy of the school record of 19 straight wins set in 1968-69! While the Eagles don't own any 'quality' non-conference wins this year, they have won on the Big East road at U Conn, West Va, St John's and Providence. On the year, they are outscoring teams by 11 PPG.

Illinois and Boston College head the list of 10 schools that are still unbeaten in conference play through January 30. That's no easy feat. Just three schools finished conference play unbeaten last year, St Joe's of the Atlantic-10, Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley and Gonzaga of the West Coast.

Outside of Illinois and Boston College this year, two other schools deserve special mention but for different reasons. Monmouth of the Northeast Conference is the only one of the 10 schools still unbeaten in conference play to NOT own a winning record overall! Pacific of the Big West, is not only 10-0 this year in conference play but is riding a 25-game Big West winning streak since losing at Utah State 66-51 last January!

Monmouth at 7-0 but just 8-8 overall, is trying to become the first repeat conference tournament winner in the Northeast Conference since Rider did it in 1992-93 and 1993-94. Pacific, a team that won its first NCAA Tournament game last year since 1967 when it beat Providence in the first round 66-58, has seemingly replaced Utah State as the Big West's dominant team. Only time will tell FOR SURE!

CHECKING IN ON SOME "LOVABLE LOSERS"....

Savannah State, an independent, hosts Ga Southern Monday, January 31. The Tigers haven't played since January 19 when they visited Statesboro and lost to this Ga Southern team, 79-53! Savannah State enters Monday's game 0-23 on the season, the NCAA's ONLY winless team! The Tigers were 5-23 last year, a win total that matched the school's total from the two previous seasons combined! Savannah St averaged just 60 PPG and were outscored by an average of 19 PPG last year. This year's team is averaging just 57 PPG and has lost by an average of 24 PPG. These Tigers may just finish without a win!

Now to schools that have yet to win a conference game this year. Finishing winless in conference play is rare. Ten schools made a run at it last year, finishing with just ONE conference victory. However, only Texas A&M of the Big-12 and Cleveland State of the Horizon League, finished winless. Both schools went 0-16!

Things have GREATLY improved in College Station though, as Billy Gillespie has the Aggies at 14-4 overall (3-4 in the Big-12) and likely NIT-bound. Cleveland State is not thinking postseason but at 7-10 overall (4-5 in the Horizon), the Vikings are far-removed from last year's DISASTER!

Currently (as of Jan 30), 10 schools have yet to post their first conference win in the 2004-05 season, matching the total of teams that are unbeaten in conference play (it's always good to have symmetry!) The team that STANDS OUT in this group is Providence!

While the other nine schools have a combined overall record of just 26-139 (.158), the Friars are 9-4 in non-conference action, giving them a 9-10 record when combined with their 0-6 start in the Big East. In Ryan Gomes (19.8 PPG and 8.8 RPG), Providence owns one of the nation's best inside players. Despite the loss of three starters from last year's 20-9 team that received an NCAA bid, it's hard to believe the Friars have played so poorly.

In a month or so, we'll know whether or not ANY of the above schools still have a ZERO left on either side of their W-L records! Tuesday, I begin my five-part Super Bowl countdown.

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